On the Queen’s Birthday, Brokenwood Wines chief winemaker and managing director Iain Riggs was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his significant service to oenology as a winemaker, to the development of the Australian wine industry, and to the promotion of the Hunter Valley region.
After 47 vintages, including 36 with Brokenwood Wines, Riggs has had a wide and varied career in winemaking, judging, mentoring, educating, and as a thought pioneer in Australian wine.
At a time of great development for the Brokenwood Wines brand, with a highly anticipated new cellar door, tasting and dining complex due to open in December, it is full steam ahead for Riggs and his team, with recognition like this as a surprising cherry on top.
“I’m incredibly honoured to receive such a recognition, although it feels somewhat odd for doing a job that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to each day,” Riggs said.
“Mentoring and giving back to the industry gives me great enjoyment, I’m just glad to be part of it.”
Born in Burra, South Australia, Riggs took an early interest in winemaking.
He studied at Roseworthy College between 1972 and 1975, followed by stints at both Bleasdale and Hazelmere in McLaren Vale.
It was here that sparked his interest in varietal blending, soon becoming a pioneer of the now famous combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
At Hazelmere, the ambitious winemaker focused on white wines, and was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1982 with his multi trophy winning Chardonnay.
Riggs’ strong interest in ‘improving the breed’ of Australian wine has seen him in many judging and chair roles.
Some of his past highlights include chairman of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, having taken over from Len Evans in 2002.
He was honoured with the naming of the Iain Riggs Wine of Provence Trophy.
In 1990, starting as an associate judge with the Sydney Royal Wine Show, Riggs quickly worked his way up to Chairman of Judges, a role that he held for six years.
The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales awarded him with their 2014 Contributors Award for Services to the RAS.
Riggs was an inaugural board member of the Winemakers Federation of Australia serving from 1989 to 1995, its vice president and president of the Australian Winemakers Forum as well as chair of the Technical Sub-committee for many years.
He continued as Deputy Chair of the Domestic Wine Promotion of Wine Australia until the early 2000’s.
The Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Awards was an initiative of Wine Hunter Marketing chaired by Riggs until WHM merged with Hunter Valley Vineyard Association.
He continued as chair of the awards until he stepped down in 2016 and is also immediate past chairman of the Wine Show of Western Australia.
In 2003, Riggs was awarded the Graham Gregory Award for outstanding service to the NSW wine industry, and at the 2013 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year Awards, he was honoured with the Len Evans Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Wine Industry.
In late 2016, the Australian Women in Wine Awards recognised Riggs and Brokenwood Wines as the Workplace Champion of Change for a long history of promoting women within the workplace.
Today, Riggs is chairman of Trustees of the Len Evans Foundation that conducts the prestigious week-long Len Evans Tutorial, and current chairman of the Shanghai International Wine Challenge.